Work away bad experience – Volunteer in Thailand
Work away bad experience while volunteering in Thailand.
Volunteer in Thailand. I have to say this was a very difficult post for me, specially because of the negativity of my experience, but this was my honest experience… so here we go… This was another work away bad experience.
After Pai and the great friendships I made there, it was time to move on. I wanted to be useful, to do something more than just being a tourist, and what better option I could have, other than Workaway (volunteer program)? I left PAI and the billion curves down the mountain and headed to Chiang Mai where I stayed a few more days, hanging out with my Hungarian friend, having fun and attending festivals.
After too much frustration with the Workaway website in Thailand, where most hosts want to charge for money or don’t even bother replying your messages, I found one family which sounded incredibly interesting. They owned an ecologic bed& breakfast in Koh Lanta, a small beautiful tropical Island in the south west of Thailand. It was a less touristy island and I was all for eco-projects! I contacted them, filled with enthusiasm and we both decided I’d be the perfect candidate! After a lot of stress, I managed to extend my visa at the tourist Bureau in Chiang Mai.
It was an expense I was not counting at all, but the family required volunteers to stay a whole month, and because I’d be 6 days short I ended up doing it and paying 50€, which I later found out were much needed for something else. The trip from the extreme north to the extreme south was incredibly tiring, but I finally arrived!
The host-family I was volunteering for was composed by a Swedish/French mother and a Thai father, 2 small children a dog and a cat. The workaway volunteer program said we should help for a maximum of 5 hours a day, 5 days a week in exchange for room and full board.
Well, this family didn’t offer all meals and wanted 6x a week work, but I thought it would be a really enriching experience to live in a B&B, meet new people, get to know the culture more, learn new skills and most of all, I was thrilled about helping with an herbal and vegetable garden the family mentioned. I love playing with the earth, so that would be one of the highlights for me.
The previous helper was still finishing the month with the family, her name was Alexa, an amazing American girl, full of life and with who I connected immediately. I can definitely say, my time with Alexa turned out to be the highlight of my staying. The work was easy and diverse, I decided to wake up at 6am every morning and start working early, since those were the hot months, and hey… when Thais say it’s hot, it means it’s boiling!!
I had a schedule with morning, afternoon and evening tasks which I followed religiously. Mostly there was some cleaning, brooming , moping, watering the plants and the garden, raking the leaves in the morning. Playing with the kids in the afternoon and tidying, watering the garden, feed the dog and the cat in the evening.
There was no way the vegetable or herbal garden could be done and there were no guest at the B&B, which was actually very disappointing. But the work in general was never boring and I liked it. By the end of the day we were going to a near by beach, with the families Tuk Tuk, and that’s when I got to meet people and have a bit of a social life. I have to say I met amazing people there and have great memories of those amazing long term travelers and digital nomads
I met at
The truth is that something went really sour between my host mother and I and I never really figured out why! Once Alexa left, the mother became quite stressed, abrupt and rough to me. No matter how much work or effort, she was always upset and it was never good enough. I believe she compared me with Alexa and never accepted the fact I was a different person with a different personality. That’s when my work away bad experience started to take shape.
I found out that that Koh Lanta and specially that area were the epicenter for Dengue, a very dangerous disease cause by a mosquito bite and I was getting bitten all day long, which became a concern for me, specially at certain times of the day. I actually was never informed or warned by the family about this health risk . So I spent my free time in my room, inside the mosquito net, reading, relaxing, writing my blog, which seemed to cause a lot of rage by the mother, who accused me of acting in an anti-social manner. Why should I be allowed to relax on my time off?
This was odd, since we all spend the evenings together at the beach and later had dinner every night. I enjoyed hanging out with them after dinner and having interesting talks, specially with the host-father who taught me a lot about Thai people. At nigh time there were no mosquitoes and I enjoyed those communal dinners a lot, but of course, as I woke up at 6am to work, I was sleepy by 10:30/11pm. Well, and I found out that my free time was actually not free time, but I had to be on call all day long and constantly by her side, since she refused to ask me for help in case she needed extra help off the scheduled hours. My “host-mother” felt insulted when I said, I was there to help, but sometimes I can’t guess when she needs it, so she should call me up and I’d gladly help. I was called “a waste of her time” and “useless” too many times and I got really tired of that situation.
After she raised her voice at me a couple of times and started to treat me in a really unpleasant way, with abrupt and negative criticisms, I notice what was going on. I was on my holidays and didn’t need to put up with all that endless negativity for a bed and a couple of vegetables, which are very cheap in Koh Lanta. How can people have someone helping them for free, working so hard and treat them without respect?
The days were lonely, just working, trying to avoid the mosquitoes and hating my situation more and more… till a new girl came along. a Russian girl named Oxana. She was very nice and I finally had some company, although I did all the work, waking up at 6am and doing all my tasks, Oxana woke up at 12 or 1pm. She helped mostly with the youngest son and had an incredible talent entertaining him. The odd thing is that she had all meals covered ( I cooked for her on a frequently basis, because she was quite picky) and was treated very well. Oxana, was astonish by
how differently we were treated.
After working for 2 weeks in a row with no day off and after an unpleasant argument, where I stated I never even got a day off, I decided to go and visit a guy I met during my trip from Bangkok to Lanta. I found out he was doing workaway for the Clayzy house hostel. An eco-hostel built with mud and local materials.I was amazed by how friendly people were, how relaxed the environment and how beautiful the hostel was! I spent the whole day there and felt terribly sad when I had to get back to the B&B. I decided I was moving to the Clayzy house in the next couple of days.
When comparing their positive experiences there with my terrible and lonely work away bad experience, i made my mind.
The Thai New Year is a reason for a massive celebration in Thailand! I’ve celebrated in full style with Oxana and the family. Armed with out great water machine guns and our Tuk Tuk, we played with water for hours and hours. The party culminated at Irie’s one of the nicest bars in Koh Lanta, where everyone gathered. The people from the Clayzy house were partying hard as well and that was one of the best days I’ve spent in Lanta!
Next day, after a constructive conversation with the mother, I left! It took me less than an hour to pack and get ready to rock! That had been my worse experience in Thailand and with a “host” family. I was amazed by how people can’t be grateful for their dedication or hard work a volunteer offers. It was also a big financial loss, since I spent 50€ on renewing a visa to meet the family’s criteria, and leave 17 days after and within my previous visa limit!
Later on, by the end of my trip I was short of $$, but at least, this incident lead me to one of the most positive experiences I had in life – the clayzy house! No more waking up at 6m to clean and scrub for free! I’m on holidays and I want to be happy and feel fulfilled with everything and everyone who surround me. Later, I found out basically all volunteers so far, left before their time was over, so did Oxana, the new girl and Alexa the girl before me.
Maybe some families aren’t equipped to care for the volunteers happiness and well being. I’ve noticed that on their profile, they state all the things they expect from you, all the tasks you have to do, all the work and everything they want, but I couldn’t find any sentence on what wonderful things the volunteer would get, no benefits, how important it is for the family to make sure the volunteer is happy… nothing…. On my next post I will have the time of my life at the clayzy house, which was actually almost a deep spiritual journey
Have you ever had a workaway bad experience? I’d love to hear from you!